A/N: OK, I don't like Philip Kramer. He broke the bromance, and I'm very upset with him. Fortunately, I can take it out on him in fan fiction :-) (And if, by chance, you're a huge Kramer fan... you've been warned!) This tale does roughly follow my story "Scramble" but it's not really necessary to have read that. Many thanks to Winterstar-Donna for her beta work - all remaining mistakes are mine.
It was the gentle gust that woke him, blowing in through the open window, setting the gauzy curtains fluttering. The breeze caressed his face, his bare shoulder, like a loving hand.
Neal opened his eyes, allowing himself a small smile as he looked out at the pre-dawn sky, the horizon just beginning to glow with the rising sun. It made the lagoon shimmer, adding golden highlights to the clear turquoise water.
He tipped his head down and to the left, his smile broadening as he looked at the dark hair spread over his chest. Luna was still sound asleep, her head on his shoulder, one arm draped lightly over his stomach. Peering past the hair, he could see a satisfied smile on her face as she slept.
After the night they'd shared, he should probably still be asleep too. Considering that he was, for all practical purposes, a man of leisure – with half of the U-boat treasure at their disposal, he and Mozzie certainly didn't need to be working for a living – maybe he should have staff so he could just spend his days in bed…
He brushed a gentle kiss on the crown of Luna's head and then, ever so carefully, he extracted his arm from under her head. She stirred at one point, mumbled something, but then turned and let sleep claim her again.
That was good, since she actually did work for a living.
He slid out of bed and padded to the bathroom, did his morning business, and then moved to the dressing area just outside the huge walk-in closet. A quick check confirmed that his swim trunks were still damp from the previous day – even though he was about to go back in the water, he really cringed at the idea of putting wet clothes back on. So he opted for the Speedo, something really more suited to serious lap swimming in a pool than a dip in the ocean. Still, it had been a gift from Luna, and maybe she'd come out to join him before he finished his swim.
Grabbing a towel, Neal let himself out of the bungalow. He had to admit, for a prison, Ambergris Caye had its perks. Stepping out his front door onto a white sand beach, mere yards from the Caribbean, was one of the best.
And really, he needed to stop thinking of this as a prison – even if it wasn't where he wanted to be. After all, he could be in Washington, D.C., tethered for all eternity to the Art Crimes division of the FBI…
Ambergris was definitely preferable. If he couldn't have New York, he'd take this.
He dropped his towel on one of the Adirondack loungers set into the sand and headed for the water. Along the way he picked up a couple of starfish and a tiny crab, its legs waving weakly in the air – sea creatures brought up by the high tide overnight. He set them gently into the water at the lagoon's edge and then waded in.
The warm salt water welcomed him, wrapping around his legs, his waist. When it reached his chest he stretched out and started to swim. Slowly at first, taking his time to warm up, he headed out into the sea.
There was a dive marker out over the reef and that was his destination. He and Mozzie had clocked it from the boat one time, and he knew it was just under a mile from the beach. The two-mile roundtrip was just about right in the morning. Sometimes he even tarried at the marker, free-diving beneath the surface to marvel at the life the ocean supported. This was just the edge of the reef – the really serious divers went out farther – but the variety of colorful fish and coral was still very impressive even this close to his front door.
He put his head down, lengthening his strokes, digging deep for a little more speed. All of the late nights at the gym back in New York, swimming lap after lap, paid off and he cut through the gentle swells as easily as he had once walked the streets of the City.
And oh, how he missed that city, and the people he had left behind…
Neal reached the dive marker and paused, one hand on the buoy. He wished he could stop thinking about New York, but that had proven to be an impossible task. He'd replayed the sequence of events so many times – from the sad, resigned look on Peter's face the last time he'd seen his friend, to his flight to avoid the fate Kramer had in mind for him. The quick hop to Hartford, to get out of the metro area, and away from the most likely spots for the FBI and marshals to mobilize agents. Then the flight to Miami, where he'd been convinced, first, that he'd be dragged off the plane in cuffs before they could even take off, and then that they'd be met by agents in Florida. But that hadn't happened, and they had made it onto a charter flight to Grand Cayman that night. Mozzie had taken care of liquidating some assets while Neal laid low – just in case their path had been tracked. There was no sign of that after a few days, however, so they had made one more trip to Belize, and then to the beautiful Ambergris Caye just off the coast.
So now he was living in a tropical paradise, with access to more wealth than anyone could reasonably spend in three lifetimes – and all he wanted was to go home.
The one thing he couldn't have.
The sun had risen all the way over the horizon now, and the warmth on his back reminded him – again – that he should focus on the present, not the past. If nothing else, Mozzie would insist that the longer he stayed in one place in the water, the greater his chances of becoming a tasty morsel for the man-eating great white sharks that Moz was sure were lurking just under the surface for that sole purpose.
Neal had tried pointing out that Belize attracted snorkelers and divers from around the world, drawn by the second-largest barrier reef in the world – and that there were no known instances of any of them being gobbled. The common reef sharks in the area were rarely aggressive in the absence of a feeding frenzy, and that was usually easy to avoid. That, of course, had not convinced Mozzie…
No, it hadn't convinced Bob. They were Vic and Bob now. Neal Caffrey and Mozzie had been left behind in New York.
Except Neal still felt like Neal and not like Vic…
And how funny that Mozzie had taken a liking to the name Bob, crafting a new ID with that name even after Neal had given up the first alias to Peter when Elizabeth was kidnapped.
He pushed off and began the swim back to shore, his strokes steady and even. About halfway there he lifted his head, smiling as he saw Luna wave from the beach. He waved back, and then put his head down again and finished his swim.
His smile grew as he reached shallow water and put his feet down in the sand. Luna was walking toward him, clad in a white bikini bottom – and nothing else. Ah, the advantages of a private beach…
He waded out, taking the towel she handed him and drying off a bit before wrapping it around both of them and pulling her close. "Good morning," he whispered, leaning in for a kiss.
Her lips met his, and it was a few moments before they came up for breath. "Good morning," she returned. "How was your swim?"
"Excellent. The water's great. Want to go in?"
"Ah, I would, but Rafe is on the mainland this morning. I need to get to work and take care of deliveries."
Neal let his facial expression turn into a pout, but just for a moment – the day was too beautiful to dwell on small things like that. "Early lunch?" he asked.
Her fingers twined in his hair, pulling him close. "Rafe should be back. We could make it a long lunch."
"Oh, so tempting. But I can't today. Bob has a diving charter to the Blue Hole, and I agreed to guide them down."
It was Luna's turn to pout. "Bob should learn to dive so he can do his own guiding."
"I have delicate eardrums."
Neal and Luna turned as Mozzie – Bob – walked toward them. The first few times that Luna had calmly faced company topless, Neal had been a little surprised. Now, though, it simply seemed a natural part of laid-back island life.
And at least Bob was fairly good at knocking when they were ensconced behind closed bungalow doors.
Luna gave a deep, theatrical sigh. "Then I will have to content myself with simply an early lunch."
Neal smiled and leaned in for another kiss. "I'll make it up to you later."
The finger that Luna trailed down over his chest and stomach made him shiver – and wish that she didn't have to leave.
"Will you be in the square today?"
"That's my plan for the morning."
Luna smiled and turned back toward the bungalow. "I will see you there then."
Neal watched until she went inside and then turned to Mozzie. "Delicate eardrums?"
Mozzie just shrugged. "It works out well. I provide the brains of the outfit, you do the physical work."
"I see you evaded the great white predator for another swim."
"Nary a bite."
"Nice girl," Mozzie said.
"Girl?" Neal had never asked Luna how old she was; he was occasionally impulsive, but rarely outright stupid. And Luna was one of those women who might have anywhere from her late twenties to maybe forty or so. Best guess though was that she was probably a couple of years older than he was.
"Just a phrase. I do admit to being a little surprised that you've started a relationship so soon."
"Luna's never asked for, or given, a promise beyond today," Neal pointed out. In fact, he had the distinct feeling that she'd understand if he was simply gone tomorrow… "And knowing the owner of a local bar doesn't hurt," he added.
There was the sound of a motor starting up, and both men turned, watching as Luna rode off on her bright yellow scooter, waving as she disappeared around a curve in the drive.
"She has started stocking a higher quality of wine," Mozzie conceded.
"Not to mention Italian roast coffee," Neal added. "Speaking of… I'm going to go make some coffee. Want a cup?"
"I could be convinced."
They went inside and Neal moved into the small kitchen while Mozzie settled into one of the padded wicker chairs in the living room at the back of the house. The kitchen, like the bedroom, overlooked the lagoon and he found himself watching the water as he waited for the water to heat.
It really was a beautiful place, and a great set-up. They had two bungalows, separated by a stand of palm trees and bamboo. Between them, a floating dock extended out into the azure waters. An ultra-fast cigarette boat was moored on one side and a small runabout on the other. Both were kept fueled and ready to go at all times.
In town, Mozart Charters had a dockside office, a seaplane, and a dive boat. In just a little over a month the place had built up a decent level of business.
Nearby, the Blue Oasis Cantina offered an inviting haven for a drink or some music – maybe some company. That's where they had met Luna, and developed a bit of a mutual referral relationship.
And a more personal relationship as well, at least for Neal and Luna.
Luna also liked to refer tourists out to the surrounding Market Square, where an artist frequently set up shop to do sketches.
Neal poured two cups of coffee and moved out into the other room, handing one off to Mozzie. "Any word from Sally?"
"I expect news soon, possibly even tonight. She said she was very close to breaking the codes."
"And she's sure the FBI won't notice, right?"
"She's very good at what she does, Neal."
Mozzie's somewhat-patronizing tone wasn't lost on Neal, and he sighed. "I know. It's just, this is really important."
Mozzie sipped his coffee slowly before saying anything else. "Neal, I know I've asked this before, but are you sure you want to do this?"
Neal sank into a chair, setting his coffee on the side table. "I have to, Moz. I need to know why Kramer wanted to rip everything away from me. And, I need to know if they're going after Peter."
"I imagine you'd get on your white horse and ride back into the teeth of the enemy if they were."
Neal just picked up his coffee and sipped; it was answer enough.
Mozzie just shook his head and sighed. "Sally will find a way to get you into the records, if not tonight, then soon. And she's also working on a way to set up secure communication with someone back home."
The cup hid the small smile that crossed Neal's face as he realized that Mozzie still referred to New York as 'home' too. "I appreciate it, Moz. And I guess Hector was able to get you everything you needed for your set-up here?" Where the extra space in Neal's bungalow had been converted into an artist's studio, Mozzie's had more electronic equipment than Neal had ever seen in one place.
"The NSA could take lessons on communication security from what I've been able to put together."
"That's reassuring. And he's still watching for unwanted visitors?"
"Hector has an amazing reach among the Belize underworld, not to mention with the local gendarmes. He has people watching every incoming flight for anyone who seems out of place."
"Always encouraging to find good help."
"So, how many people in the dive party this afternoon?"
"Three. And their dive history checks out."
"That's good. The Hole isn't a place for novices."
Mozzie gave an exaggerated shudder. "It's not a place for humans! But, people are willing to pay a lot of money to go there."
"Tropical capitalism at its finest."
"You're going to do your artist thing again?"
"Yeah, I'm going to go in and do some sketching. I'm having an early lunch with Luna, and then I'll meet you at the office."
"Excellent." Mozzie drained his cup and got to his feet. "I'll have the boat ready."